Jaundice is the yellow coloring in the skin of many newborns. Jaundice occurs when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the baby’s blood. After birth the baby’s liver must remove the bilirubin. In some cases, the babies liver might not be developed enough to efficiently get rid of the bilirubin. When too much bilirubin builds up in the baby’s body, the skin and whites of the eyes might turn yellow. This yellow coloring is called jaundice.
When jaundice is not managed properly, it can cause a condition called kernicterus (KI). KI is a type of brain damage that occurs when the bilirubin builds up in the baby’s body and reaches the brain. It can cause athetoid cerebral palsy, hearing and visual impairment. KI can also cause digestive, sleeping and dental problems. Kernicterus can be catastrophic for all involved. Early detection and management of jaundice can prevent kernicterus.